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Why Private Investigators are Proliferating

Editor's note: This article was written by an industry professional and guest contributor. The views and opinions in this article are of the author and do not reflect the views of PInow. If you are interested in becoming a guest contributor, send an email to [email protected]


why-private-investigators-are-proliferating-in-the-ukIt seems as though many people think snooping on their significant other’s Facebook page or checking their cell phone history makes them qualified to become a private investigator. The United Kingdom has recently experienced a huge boom in the number of PIs, and one big reason is that the proliferation of technology has made it a real cinch to check up on people.

According to one group, the number of PIs in the UK has risen to 10,000, and firms in the country spent more than $6 million over the past few years on surveillance by outside organizations.

So why the big gains, and might this trend move overseas? Here are some answers.

Easier Than Ever

The truth is that, whether you’re looking for home improvement or disability lawyer information, it’s accessible on the Internet these days. That’s made many people think that they can play private investigator without any formal training. Because there is no requirement in the UK to get a license to be a private investigator, people who otherwise might have pursued a different line of work feel it’s a snap to get into investigations.

This can be a good and bad thing. Certainly the field’s popularity is drawing in some very smart people who have a lot to offer and are very effective at their jobs. But there’s also some who are in no way qualified and give PIs a bad name.

A Move for Greater Regulation

This proliferation of new PIs has led to a movement for greater regulation of the field in the UK. Privacy watchdog group Big Brother Watch said earlier this year that it believes the rules governing PIs are inadequate and should be revised because of the big surge in the field.

There are similar debates raging all over the world about whether or not PIs should be licensed. In the United States a majority of states do require a license, and so the increase that’s being seen in the UK probably won’t carry over across the pond.

Lots of New Tools

The fact that people now use their smartphones to take pictures and record video almost constantly also makes it much easier for PIs to blend in when they’re taking surveillance.

Still, many of the tools that these new PIs are employing are available to every man on the street. It’s possible to buy a wide range of surveillance equipment, from lipstick-sized cameras to listening devices that can record a penny drop.

This all makes private investigations seem easier to carry out. The fact that people now use their smartphones to take pictures and record video almost constantly also makes it much easier for PIs to blend in when they’re taking surveillance.

It’s also possible to do extensive background searches on people on the Internet using little more than a bit of imagination. You can unravel the thread of a person’s life online, with one search leading to another. Many young people who grew up with the Internet thus feel like they’re perfectly suited to use their knowledge to investigate people.

Are These Gains Helping the Industry?

A key question that must be asked is whether this big increase in private investigators is helpful to the industry. There’s no easy answer to that. Certainly it helps that young people are getting interested in the private investigation, always key to the future. But there’s also the worry that they could dilute the industry with too many under-qualified PIs running around.

Ultimately it won’t be known for years whether this spurt of PIs in the UK is a help or hindrance to the business. The best hope is that it continues to grow with the greater availability of sophisticated surveillance and monitoring devices that allow PIs to deliver better services.


shane-jones-alabama-pi-s-fight-for-license-legislationAbout the Author

This article was written by contributor Shane Jones, who represents Social Security Defenders, LLC, a national disability law firm.

Become a guest contributor

This article was written by an industry guest contributor. If you are interested in submitting a guest post or have an article suggestion, send an email to [email protected]


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